ROW Harvesting and Mowing

Iowa law prohibits mowing of roadsides prior to July 15.

Can the grass within the right of way of state-maintained highways be legally harvested for livestock feed? Yes, during certain periods of the year and with a permit issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation. Grazing is not permitted. Permits are required to access or perform any type of work within the state highway right of way.

Persons interested in applying for a permit should contact the Iowa DOT. Not all highway right of way may be mowed; and annual permits may have already been issued for some areas. Harvesting is not allowed on interstate highways or in interstate rest areas. Harvesting hay is not allowed in medians or in interchange quadrants of other divided highways.

Iowa law prohibits mowing of roadside vegetation on the right of way or medians of any primary highway, interstate highway or secondary road prior to July 15, except:
  • Within 200 yards of an inhabited dwelling.
  • On right of way within one mile of the corporate limits of a city.
  • To promote native species of vegetation or other long-lived and adaptable vegetation.
  • To establish control of damaging insect populations, noxious weeds and invasive plant species.
  • For visibility and safety reasons.
  • Within rest areas, weigh stations and wayside parks.
  • Within 50 feet of a drainage tile or tile intake.
  • For access to a mailbox or for other accessibility purposes.
  • On right of way adjacent to agricultural demonstration or research plots.
The Iowa DOT has established two periods for harvesting grass within the state-maintained highway right of way.
  • July 15-Sept. 1: For cool-season grasses and forage legumes (e.g., smooth brome, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, alfalfa, bird's-foot trefoil)
  • July 15-Aug. 15: For areas containing warm-season native grasses (e.g., switchgrass, big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, sideoats grama, Canada wildrye)
The Iowa DOT may restrict operations or define additional stipulations in the permit, including those that affect the health of vegetation. Mowing of newly seeded areas that are not yet fully established will not be permitted. (It can take four to five years following seeding for an area to become fully established.)

All work shall be performed between 30 minutes after sunrise and 30 minutes before sunset. Work that is performed between the road and ditch bottom requires traffic control. All personnel must wear approved safety apparel, which the Iowa DOT will provide for the applicant when the permit is approved.

The Iowa DOT makes no guarantee as to the quality and quantity of the hay, or presence of any toxic materials or other contaminants. Applicants should check with the local Iowa DOT maintenance facility for herbicide application records.

Iowa DOT Form 810050 – Harvesting and Mowing Permit Application covers three types of operations: (1) mowing only; (2) harvesting hay in large or small bales; or (3) harvesting plant material other than hay with machinery, by hand or with hand tools. This form is also available from any of the representatives listed below.

It is necessary for abutting property owners to sign off on all permits before department approval.

Contact the representative serving the area nearest where you would like to harvest hay to receive assistance in processing your permit application.

district map

District Location Contact Hours
District 1
1020 S 4th Street
Ames, IA 50010
Nicole Cook
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Mon-Fri
District 2 2224 225th St.
New Hampton, IA 50659
Michelle Smith
6:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Mon-Fri
District 3 4621 N. U.S. 75
Sioux City, IA 51108
Marybeth Banta
8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon-Fri
District 4 2210 E. Seventh St.
Atlantic, IA 50022
Amy Maes
7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Mon-Fri
District 5 P.O. Box 400
Fairfield, IA 52556
Lisa Luko
7 a.m.- 3:30 p.m., Mon-Fri
District 6 5455 Kirkwood Blvd.
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
Janet Worrell
7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon-Fri


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